Burning Sneakers and American Patriotism
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Photo: Eric Risberg

Burning Sneakers and American Patriotism


Hardly had the season of forest fires across the US ended when outraged Americans started burning their sneakers en masse. People got rid of their socks, bracelets, T-shirts and other items with the loathed Swoosh-marker that left hundreds of people heart-broken. What’s the reason for all this you ask? Well, first things first.

“What's that smell? It might just be the stench of crispy Nike sneakers roasting over an open flame,” – jokes Sam Reed, the journalist of InStyle. This smell is nothing new: the air stank of burning NewBalance footwear two years ago. Hmm…this smell seems pretty common during election seasons.

In 2016, New Balance customers came to conclude that burning their trainers was the best way to show their dissatisfaction with the words of the company's vice president who appeared to praise Donald Trump's trade plans. He told Wall Street Journal reporter Sara Germano that the Obama administration had “turned a deaf ear” to them, and that they thought things would “move in the right direction” under the impending Trump presidency.

This time the situation is a little different: Nike, the American sports apparel company of world renown, wanted to celebrate the birthday of their well-known slogan ‘Just Do It’, which turned 30 this year. And, so they just did it. Nike studied hard before making a brave decision to enlist Colin Kaepernick as one of its spokesmen for their new ad campaign. Kaepernick, an unemployed NFL quarterback — exiled by a billionaires’ club and reviled by some who live paycheck to paycheck — is far from being the favorite football-player of American fans. Moreover, in 2016 Colin Kaepernick was actually the most disliked player in the NFL, according to a poll of Americans by E-Poll Marketing Research.

“We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike's vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.

Perhaps they have a point.

Kaepernick became a controversial figure in 2016 when he refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of police violence and racism against African Americans and other minorities in the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. Kaepernick kept to his word all season long, drawing criticism from Donald Trump while he was still on the campaign trail. He later shifted his protest to taking a knee during the national anthem instead of sitting on the bench.

Kirby Lee

In doing so, Kaepernick joined a number of other athletes, like the NBA's Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and several WNBA players, who also took a stand for civil rights and used their platform and status to raise awareness to issues affecting minorities in the U.S.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said.

In September 2017 at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump said that if fans would “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest during the national anthem “things will stop.” Trump also added that NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired!”No team signed him as a free agent in 2017, but in 2018 Colin managed to become the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, which only added to Trump’s anger.

“Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts,” he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick offered outsiders their first look at the Nike ads on his twitter account. The ad is narrated by the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and features video of Serena Williams, LeBron James and others:

The headline of Nike’s commercial says: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” And Americans chose to believe in their country and sacrifice…their shoes. The fallout has already begun. People are burning their Nike sneakers, cutting off the logos on their Nike socks, even some more prominent right wingers (actor, James Woods) are calling for people to sell their Nike stock with #DumpNike.

“Due to your support of C.K. in your coming adds [sic], I as an American can no longer support your company,” wrote one Twitter user who then threw his shoes into a fire.

Although Nike shares fell 3.1 percent Tuesday after the Kaepernick unveiled his ad, Nike executives are making fun of those who burn their clothes due to the logo.

A former Ohio State University linebacker is giving very profound advice to those who feel the urge to burn perfectly good Nike gear and shoes:

The veterans organization Vote Vets Even also asked people to be wise: “If you don't like Nike making Kaepernick the face of their new campaign, if you own Nike gear, you already paid for it. So instead of burning it, or cutting it, please donate it. Lots of houseless people could use it, sadly including many veterans on the streets.”

Author: USA Really